Effects of climate variability on livestock production and coping strategies in Maikona Location, Marsabit County, Kenya
Climate change is viewed as one of the greatest challenges facing humanity manifested in form of variation in amount and distribution of precipitation, ocean salinity, wind patterns and aspects of extreme weather leading to droughts and flooding, among others. These changes threaten community livelihoods, economy, ecosystems and social cohesion. Africa is particularly viewed to bear the brunt of the climate change threats mainly due to its poor economic development and low institutional capacity. Vulnerable communities within the continent are facing the highest pressure. Among the conspicuous threats are decline in crop production, livestock deaths due to droughts, malnutrition, resource based conflicts and migration. Pastoral community in Maikona location (Marsabit County) is one such community. The existence of effective coping mechanisms is vital for the survival of these communities. This exploratory study sought to investigate the coping mechanisms that pastoral communities have employed in Maikona Location and their sustainability. The study employed both quantitative and qualitative methods, targeting 145 respondents including 127 Households respondents, 14 Youth and Women group members in FGDs and 4 technical/NGO representatives. Questionnaires, FGDs and key informant checklists were used as the main tools. Data were analyzed both descriptively and inferentially. It is envisioned that the study would give vital information to pastoral development stakeholders and policy makers on the actual impacts facing the pastoralists, the existing and appropriate coping mechanisms while guiding on the interventions and policy options. The study found out that there had been real and perceived changes both in the rainfall and temperature patterns. Field inquiries indicated a great change in rainfall patterns (94%) between 1980 and 2010 as well as a significant trend of decline from the data of the metrological department. These changes were established to be negatively impacting livestock production and the livelihood of the community in the study area. The local community was found seeking for relief food, buying food on credit and selling livestock asset as the common coping strategies. However, the sustainability of those strategies is in huge doubt since most of the respondents were not even sure of their longevity while others admitted they may not use them for long. Moreover, majority (84%) of the respondents could not tell the consequence of their strategies on the environment. The external supports provided to the communities were largely in response to emergencies and were not seen as sustainable in the long term. The study recommended that the metrological department should share rainfall data constantly with the pastoralists for them to understand the dynamics of rainfall and temperature variations on livestock production and possible coping strategies customized for their situation as well as advise them on sustainability. The study further recommended the need for a long-term support like establishment of livestock market, support to education through sponsorship and adopting policies that support mobility as opposed to sedentarization of the communities.